A retrospective study of 1,052 unintentional drowning deaths in North Carolina during the period from 1980 through 1984 was carried out, with emphasis on the victims' activity and alcohol consumption, and the settings of the accidents. The data suggest that many drownings are preventable, and reinforce the etiologic importance of ethanol consumption in such deaths. The overall drowning rate for North Carolina residents during the period covered by the study was 3.2 per 100,000 persons. Nonwhite males had the highest rate, 8.8 per 100,000 population. The next highest rate was for white males, 4.7 per 100,000. Swimming and wading, involved in 41 percent of the drowning deaths, was the most frequently associated activity. Fishing was involved in 15 percent of the deaths, and motor vehicle accidents with 8 percent. Most occurred in freshwater settings, notably lakes and ponds, 39 percent, and rivers and creeks, 29 percent. Of the 752 victims 15 years and older tested for blood ethanol, 53 percent had positive tests and 38 percent had blood alcohol concentrations of 100 milligrams per deciliter or greater. Significant percentages of victims 15 years and older with blood alcohol concentrations greater than 100 milligrams per deciliter were found in all settings and activity groups.